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School of Medicine forms collaboration with medical center in China

Will aid with design, technology, physician training for new hospital

by Julia Evangelou StraitJuly 1, 2019

World Trade Center St. Louis

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has formed a collaboration with China-based Huici Health Management Co. to help with physician training and the design of a new medical center — including a 1,000-bed hospital — in Suzhou, in eastern China.

In addition, medical students, residents and fellows from the School of Medicine will have opportunities to learn and train at the new medical center.

“We are pleased to be pursuing this new collaboration with our colleagues in China,” said Paul J. Scheel, MD, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and CEO of Washington University Physicians. “China’s economy has expanded dramatically over the past several decades, and there is a strong demand for private sector health care. To fill this need, new hospitals are being built there, and we’ll be providing our expertise on everything from hospital design to the purchase of new technologies and physician training, helping to bring better health care to patients in China.”

The School of Medicine will work with collaborators at Huici Health Management Co., based in Suzhou, China, and the Xiangcheng District, an area within Suzhou, to open the new Huici Medical Center, which will include a 1,000-bed hospital for adult and pediatric patients. Suzhou has experienced dramatic gains in population since 2000; the city and its suburbs are home to more than 10 million residents.

“The collaboration also opens up new opportunities for our students, medical residents and fellows to train in China, providing an international setting that can enhance their skills and help them understand the challenges and successes of the Chinese health-care system,” Scheel said.

As part of the collaboration, a referral system will be developed for patients from China to come to Washington University School of Medicine for specialized medical care to treat complex medical conditions, especially cancers.

“We will be providing care to patients who come from China with difficult-to-treat illnesses that can’t be adequately treated there,” Scheel said. “Such conditions might involve complex neurosurgical and orthopedic needs, specialty pediatric care and serious heart problems for which our physicians and health-care teams have incredible expertise.”

The School of Medicine is an attractive partner for the Chinese health-care leaders because of its broad and deep expertise in diagnosing and treating complex medical conditions and its prominence as one of the top research-based medical schools in the nation. Patients come from throughout the United States for specialized medical care, and many of the school’s expert physicians also conduct leading-edge research to advance the understanding of disease and aid in the development of new treatments.

Faculty at the School of Medicine will provide advice and technical consultations on the design of the medical center’s facilities and recommend specific technologies, especially for diagnostic imaging and treating cancer. After the Huici Medical Center opens in 2020, the School of Medicine will collaborate with physician training and continuing education.

The collaboration also includes the opportunity for Washington University doctors in St. Louis to provide long-distance health-care services to patients in China through a telemedicine program.

“One of the major focuses of the relationship with Huici is the opportunity to partner with Siteman Cancer Center,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, the Bixby Professor, and director of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “This partnership will help Huici develop state-of-the-art cancer services in Suzhou. Additionally, Siteman will share its exceptional prevention programs, which will be used to lessen the burden of disease in China. This partnership will benefit people in the entire province surrounding Suzhou and is an example of the international impact of Siteman.”

Scheel also pointed to the learning opportunities that treating international patients might provide to Washington University’s physicians-in-training.

“The types of cancers that are common in China differ somewhat from the cancers that are common in the U.S.,” Scheel said. “There tend to be more cases of liver, esophageal and gastric cancers in China than there are here, for example. So, seeing some of these patients in St. Louis will both provide these patients with excellent care and allow for additional training opportunities for our Washington University medical students, residents and fellows.”

International relationships that Washington University helped foster over the years laid the groundwork for the new collaboration, according to Scheel. Eric Tong Jiang, vice president of Huici Health Management Co., is a Washington University alumnus, earning his MBA in 2004 from Olin Business School. The collaboration also was cultivated and supported by the World Trade Center St. Louis – the international division of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, which is aimed at attracting and facilitating the growth of businesses in the St. Louis region. The World Trade Center St. Louis played a vital role by connecting Huici management with key leadership at the School of Medicine and co-hosting Huici delegations to the region.

“St. Louis has several key strengths, including thriving biotechnology and strong health-care sectors that employ thousands across the region,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. “Health care is a center of innovation and technology and represents a strong opportunity for future foreign investment — from companies in China and throughout the globe. The partnership between Washington University School of Medicine and Huici Health Management Company will help elevate St. Louis as a global leader in health care.”

Matt Miller
Siteman Cancer Center also will play an important role in the collaboration, especially as it relates to cancer diagnosis and treatment of difficult-to-treat tumors. Pictured are (from left) Tim Nowak, executive director of World Trade Center St. Louis, which helped foster the collaboration; Timothy Eberlein, MD, director of Siteman Cancer Center; and Eric Tong Jiang, vice president of Huici Health Management Co.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Julia covers medical news in genomics, cancer, cardiology, developmental biology, otolaryngology, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, and gut microbiome research. In 2022, she won a gold award for excellence in the Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards competition. Given by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the award recognized her coverage of long COVID-19. Before joining Washington University in 2010, she was a freelance writer covering science and medicine. She has a research background with stints in labs focused on bioceramics, human motor control and tissue-engineered heart valves. She is a past Missouri Health Journalism Fellow and a current member of the National Association of Science Writers. She holds a bachelor's degree in engineering science from Iowa State University and a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota.